Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) is stepping down after a short stint as a seat filler for the recently deceased Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who died while in office from a brain tumor. Kyl will end his latest, and briefest, service to the people of Arizona and the nation on the last day of the year.
Kyl weathered the storm for Republicans during the most contentious Supreme Court confirmation hearing in recent history, staying the course with a deaf ear to the hysterics and underhanded antics of the opposition, with a quiet grace – a personality trait that served him well during his tenure of public service.
In a letter, hand-delivered to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, Kyl briefly stated the reasons for his resignation:
“… I have concluded that it would be best if I resign so that your new appointee can begin the new term with all other Senators in January 2019 and can serve a full two (potentially four) years.”
In response, Ducey honored the man for returning to the Senate: “His legacy as one of Arizona’s most influential and important political figures was already without question … I remain deeply grateful for his willingness to step up and serve again when Arizona needed him.”
The governor now finds himself in scramble mode to appoint the next senator before the January 3 swearing-in of the new class. And in what must feel like a déjà vu moment for the Arizona electorate, with rumors circulating across the airwaves and wires on who might make the cut, Ducey must make another critically important decision for his people. So, who is up at bat?
With just weeks to fill the position before the new class takes residence in Congress, Ducey must reevaluate several possible candidates and perhaps vet new Republican faces for consideration. Arizona political insiders agree that Martha McSally, fresh off a searing defeat by Senator-elect Kyrsten Sinema, is at the top of the list.
McSally is disciplined and intelligent, with a temperament well suited for the battlefield on the Hill that will recommence once the holidays are in the rearview mirror. She also has an unlikely backer in current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) – and he still manages to throw his weight around in the Trump administration.
But the president may also be hoping for a McSally appointment as both tend to blame the media for lack of transparent, factual reporting. Neck and neck with McSally in popularity is Ducey’s soon-to-be former chief of staff, Kirk Adams, who some locals have described as having a perkier than usual demeanor of late. But aside from his relationship with the governor, Adams is white, privileged, male, Mormon and not the best optic to market in 2019.
The best bet for the governor to curry favor with the Swamp sitters would be a McSally appointment. Ducey has a long-range plan of political action to chase. It’s a chess game of epic proportions, and he must win. The question is, who will exclaim “Zugzwang” when the sun sets on the 2018 desert floor?
Whatever the decision and political fallout, Arizonans once again were front row, center stage to the enviable statesmanship of man who will once again be sorely missed: Jon Kyl.